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Marian Diamond, who studied Einstein’s brain, dies at 90

OAKLAND, Calif. — Marian Diamond, a neuroscientist who studied Albert Einstein’s brain and was the first to show that the brain’s anatomy can change with experience, has died. She was 90.

Diamond, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, died July 25 in Oakland, the university said Friday.

Diamond became famous in 1984 when she examined preserved slices of Einstein’s brain and found it had more support cells than the average person’s brain.

Her groundbreaking research on rats found that the brain can improve with enrichment, while impoverished environments can lower the capacity to learn.

“Her research demonstrated the impact of enrichment on brain development — a simple but powerful new understanding that has literally changed the world, from how we think about ourselves to how we raise our children,” said George Brooks, a professor of integrative biology and her colleague at UC Berkeley.

“Dr. Diamond showed anatomically, for the first time, what we now call plasticity of the brain. In doing so she shattered the old paradigm of understanding the brain as a static and unchangeable entity that simply degenerated as we age.”

Her subsequent research found that the brain can continue to develop at any age, that male and female brains are structured differently and that brain stimulation can improve the immune system.

On campus, she was known for walking to her packed anatomy classes carrying a flowered hat box containing a preserved human brain.

She regularly encouraged activities, both mental and physical, that enrich the brain, and continued to conduct research and teach until 2014, when she retired at the age of 87.

“If you’re going to live life, you’ve got to be all in,” Diamond said in the 2016 documentary film “My Love Affair with the Brain: The Life and Science of Dr. Marian Diamond.”

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